Death Rituals, Wax Effigies and the Obituary
with Nigel Llewellyn and Chris Maume
Sunday 30th October from 1 pm

How did our ancestors die? Whereas in our own day the subject of death is usually avoided, in pre-Industrial England the rituals and processes of death were present and immediate. People not only surrounded themselves with memento mori, they also sought to keep alive memories of those who had gone before. This continual confrontation with death was enhanced by a rich culture of visual artefacts. In his talk, Nigel Llewellyn explores the meanings behind an astonishing range of these artefacts, and describes the attitudes and practices which lay behind their production and use. He uncovers the story of an array of little-known objects and images such as death's head spoons, jewels and swords, mourning-rings and fans, wax effigies, church monuments, Dance of Death prints, funeral invitations and ephemera, as well as works by well-known artists, including Holbein, Hogarth and Blake.

The former obituaries editor of The Independent explains how an obituaries operation works. Beyond the must-have category, figures who transcend their field, like David Bowie, Muhammad Ali or Victoria Wood, how are the subjects chosen? What are the ingredients of a great obits spread? What are the pitfalls and how are they avoided? Does every public figure or high-achiever deserve an obituary, or should some people, however notable their lives might have been, be interred in silence? Obituaries were traditionally sober and low-key, but today the emphasis is on telling great stories. But is there any aspect of a subject’s life that should be avoided altogether? In the end, obituaries are not just about death – they are a celebration of life, too.

Tickets £12 including a gin cocktail. Please click here to buy.

Nigel Llewellyn trained as an art historian at Universities of East Anglia and Cambridge and by Baxandall and Gombrich at the Warburg Institute.  He taught art history for many years at University of Sussex before moving to the Arts and Humanities Research Council to direct their Research Centres programme and then to the Tate in 2007 to establish the Research Department.  He curated "The Art of Death" and "Baroque" exhibitions at the V&A London. 

Chris Maume - was widely acclaimed as the finest obituaries editor of his generation. He worked for The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and the i from 1988 until 2016.



The Dissenters' Chapel, Kensal Green Cemetery, London. Ticket includes tour of the catacombs.